COVID-19

Articles and publications written by the CCC about the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic.

Nous n’avons pas besoin de plus d’impôts pour réagir à la crise du COVID-19

La crise du COVID-19 continue et les fonds anti-crise se gonflent. Afin de proposer une relance directe, quelques pays européens prennent la décision raisonnable de réduire les charges fiscales, tandis que d’autres veulent les augmenter. Il est évident qu’une fiscalité simplifiée et réduite donnerait le boost nécessaire aux consommateurs et aux entreprises. Comment convaincre les décideurs de changer de route?

Il n’y a rien d’incroyable à déclarer que la crise sanitaire du COVID-19 a permis à beaucoup de bords politiques d’imposer des propositions politiques qui nécessitent une crise pour convaincre l’opinion public. Inimaginable il y a un an, le Conseil européen a accepté de faire un emprunt européen  et de lever des taxes européennes. Nous voilà en début d’automne avec un débat politique bien changé et une discussion de solidarité qui nous rappelle la crise de 2008.

En plein milieu de la dernière crise financière, les décideurs politiques demandaient aux citoyens de faire un effort. Taxe de crise spéciale, augmentation de l’impôt sur le revenu, taxe retenue à la source (qui a frappé de façon inéquitable les différents épargnants), puis augmentation de la TVA en 2014 de 15 à 17%. En même temps, l’endettement de l’Etat central est restée bien en-dessus des 20% du PIB (qui représente plus que le double de la celle du début du siècle). Il s’avère que l’augmentation des moyens de l’Etat central ne s’est pas fait en coordination avec une rigueur budgétaire accrue. On a pu observer ce phénomène depuis les années 2000 jusqu’à aujourd’hui.

L’Allemagne a au contraire décidé d’une réduction temporaire de la TVA jusqu’au 1er janvier, de 19 à 15%, respectivement de 7 à 5% pour le taux réduit. Depuis ce mois-ci, les consommateurs irlandais bénéficient d’une réduction de la TVA de 23 à 21%. Sachant  que la taxe sur la valeur ajoutée est la taxe la plus injuste pour les consommateurs, pourquoi ne pas mettre en place une pareille mesure au Luxembourg ?

l convient également de comprendre deux leçons économiques importants. Premièrement, d’après les travaux de  Laffer, nous savons qu’une réduction d’impôts ne coïncide pas forcément avec une réduction des recettes. Deuxièmement, il est important de savoir que des réduction d’impôts sans des réductions de dépenses n’auront que peu d’effets.. 

Il convient de rappeler que l’Etat en tant que tel n’est pas une entité génératrice de richesse. Pour financer ses activités, il doit puiser des ressources dans le secteur privé. Ce faisant, il affaiblit le processus de création de richesses et compromet les perspectives de croissance économique réelle.

Comme l’Etat n’est pas une entité génératrice de richesse, toute réduction d’impôts alors que les dépenses publiques continuent d’augmenter ne va pas soutenir une véritable croissance économique. Or, la relance budgétaire pourrait “fonctionner” si le flux d’épargne réelle est suffisamment important pour soutenir, c’est-à-dire financer, les activités de l’Etat tout en permettant un taux de croissance des activités du secteur privé. Si la baisse des impôts s’accompagne d’une diminution des dépenses publiques, les citoyens auront plus de moyens de réactiver la création de richesse. Ainsi nous aurons une véritable reprise économique. 

Cette logique s’applique à la réduction des impôts des entreprises, qui surtout en temps de crise, n’est pas une mesure populaire. Pourtant, ceux qui attaquent une telle réduction se trompent. Ils s’appuient sur une vision à somme nulle du monde dans laquelle les gains des uns sont considérés comme un préjudice pour les autres. Ils supposent que les propriétaires de sociétés profitent de la quasi-totalité des avantages des réductions d’impôts sur les sociétés. Ils s’appuient sur des données très faussées pour étayer leurs arguments ainsi qu’une mauvaise compréhension du fonctionnement de l’économie.

La vision à somme nulle ignore le fait que les accords volontaires de marché profitent à tous les participants. Par conséquent, l’augmentation des échanges commerciaux mutuellement bénéfiques, tout comme la réduction de la fiscalité, profite à la fois aux acheteurs et aux vendeurs. En revanche, punir les vendeurs par des taxes plus élevées les incite également à faire moins avec leurs ressources au service qu’ils rendent aux autres.

La réduction de l’impôt sur les sociétés permet d’améliorer  les techniques de production, la technologie et le montant des investissements en capital, ce qui accroît la productivité et les revenus des travailleurs. Cette réduction augmente les incitatifs à la prise de risque et à l’esprit d’entreprise au service des consommateurs. Cela réduit les importantes distorsions causées par l’impôt, et ces changements profitent aux  travailleurs et aux consommateurs.

Les plans de recouvrement centralisées montreront très peu de résultats, car l’Etat, dans sa structure centralisée, est incapable de savoir ce que les gens veulent réellement. Si nous voulons combattre les effets des fermetures liées au COVID-19, il faut libérer les capacités entrepreneuriales des citoyens, et réduire les obstacles réglementaires auquels les entreprises font face.

First a free lunch, then a freed-up lunch

If we are going to nudge people back to restaurants, let’s make the food service industry fun again

A social distancing sign is displayed at booth in a restaurant on the first day of indoor dining in Ottawa, in July.

According to a recent survey of restaurant owners, more than 29 per cent of food-service operators can’t turn a profit under current social distancing restrictions, while 60 per cent said that if things continue, they’ll have to permanently close after 90 days.

Under normal conditions, the food service industry employs 1.2 million Canadians, which makes this doomsday scenario truly frightening. Short-term mass restaurant failures would certainly take a toll, but the long-term impact would also be devastating. At some point or other, most young people rely on the food service industry for their entry into the workforce. It also provides flexible work for many older Canadians. The impact of eliminating these employment opportunities would be hard to measure but clearly would not be good.

David Clement: First a free lunch, then a freed-up lunch

What can policymakers do to get Canadians eating at restaurants again? We could, as some have suggested, follow the lead of the U.K.’s Eat Out To Help Out campaign. For the month of August, the British government provided a 50 per cent discount, to a limit of £10 per diner, on food and soft drinks every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for restaurant-goers who ate in.

The goal was to provide a gentle nudge to consumers to alleviate their concerns about eating at restaurants and to give participating restaurants a revenue boost. Take-up was impressive, with more than 64 million meals being claimed over the first three weeks. On top of that, some major chains have said that they will honour the Monday-Wednesday 50 per cent discount moving forward, without government assistance, bearing the cost themselves.

Could it work in Canada? Possibly, but it largely depends on what we are “nudging” consumers back to. Some of us aren’t particularly excited about returning to $9 pints of generic beer and $17 cheeseburgers. That isn’t a slight against Canada’s food service industry; it’s a statement about the constrained environment legislators, at all levels, have created via over-regulation.

If we are going to nudge people back to restaurants, let’s make the food service industry fun again. Some simple changes in government policy could go a long way to creating a much more dynamic and ultimately fun environment for consumers, which will help make these businesses profitable once again.

Starting with alcohol, Canadian provinces should remove minimum pricing on alcoholic beverages and allow for restaurants to order directly from producers, rather than be required to order through provincial liquor control boards. Opening up the pricing model would allow for more competition — and possibly even higher margins on alcohol once bureaucracy can be side-stepped — while better serving consumers. Removing the liquor control board as the middle man would help combat inflated prices and drastically reduce costs for restaurants.

The provinces should also repeal their open-container laws and allow for outdoor alcohol consumption, something that is commonplace all over Europe. This change would allow for licensed restaurants to sell to-go drinks for those who are enjoying what is left of our summer months. Should I be able to enjoy a beer while taking a walk through a park? Of course. Should a licensed restaurant or bar be allowed to sell me that beer? Why on earth not?

Beyond alcohol, restaurants and bars should be allowed to incorporate non-smokable cannabis products into their menu offerings. If I can order a beer at a bar, I should be able to order a cannabis beverage. Giving cannabis consumers a legal commercial setting in which to consume beverages or edibles gives those consumers something that has never before been possible, while opening restaurants up to an entirely new customer base. New product offerings of cannabis beverages and edibles would be easy to implement. All that provincial authorities would have to do is roll these products into existing server licenses such as Smart Serve. If we can trust servers to serve alcohol, we can trust them to serve cannabis products.

For food, the elimination of supply management would be a major long-term help to both restaurants and consumers. The quota and tariff system that restricts the market for chicken, dairy, eggs and turkey artificially inflates restaurants’ costs and get passed along to consumers via higher prices. We know that supply management is a backwards policy that pushes people under the poverty line by inflating grocery bills upwards of $500 per year per family. Allowing for competition for these products would go a long way to reducing costs for the food service industry.

With the end of summer upon us and colder temperatures on the horizon, the clock is ticking for policymakers to breathe life back into the food service sector. If we are going to nudge people back to restaurants, let’s make restaurants fun and affordable again. Simple changes could go a long way to avoiding mass restaurant bankruptcies.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Scrapping COVID Patents: PM Johnson needs to resist populist calls

London, UK –  In a report published today by the House of Commons International Trade Committee, Members of Parliament suggested that the UK enact compulsory licensing for COVID-19 treatments. Under compulsory licensing laws, the government has the power to revoke patent rights from innovators and companies if a discovery they made provides treatment or protection related to a national health emergency. Fred Roeder, Health Economist and Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center warns that eroding intellectual property will end up harming patients, and will hurt the UK’s chances of accessing a cure or vaccine:

“Compulsory licensing is threatening to move the goalposts on how intellectual property rights are protected. If domestic and foreign companies are prevented from retaining their patent licenses, this could hinder the production and supply of essential goods to the UK further than they already are. A compulsory licensing bill could place even more barriers for pharmaceutical innovators, which could discourage these kinds of companies from investing or listing their drugs in the UK.

There are other solutions to ensure easy access to vaccines and drugs. For example, mutual recognition of FDA and EMA approvals and fast-tracking some types of medicines would do a lot of good. In order to be prepared for the next pandemic, we need to increase, not curb, incentives for innovation. Right now we need to do everything that makes pharmaceutical research more agile – Introducing compulsory licensing on COVID drugs and vaccines is not the right way. Any help it provides in the short term will jeopardize our ability to tackle this health crisis in the long run,” concludes Roeder.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Coronavirus Will Blow Up Our Legal System, but a Liability Shield Will Help

As customers slowly trickle back into stores and workers punch back in at reopened businesses, there’s one thought on all our minds: caution.

Protective plastic shields and screens, face masks and gloves are a new reality, and it is a small price to pay for coming out of state-mandated lockdowns.

But months into the all-encompassing coronavirus pandemic, there is another cost many entrepreneurs and administrators fear: future legal bills.

While voluntary precautions will be plentiful in every situation where a customer, student or worker is getting back out in the world, the nature of the virus means it is almost certain that someone, somewhere, will catch the virus. That means huge potential legal ramifications if a person wants to hold an institution or business liable.

There is already a demonstrable lawsuit epidemic. Between March and May of this year, more than 2,400 COVID-related lawsuits have been filed in federal and state courts. These cases are likely to blow up our legal system as we know it, elevating accusations of blame and clogging every level of our courts that will keep judges and lawyers busy for some time.

That is why the idea of a liability shield for schools, businesses and organizations has taken up steam.

In a recent letter to congressional leaders, 21 governors, all Republicans, called on both houses of Congress to include liability protections in the next round of coronavirus relief.

“To accelerate reopening our economies as quickly and as safely as possible, we must allow citizens to get back to their livelihoods and make a living for their families without the threat of frivolous lawsuits,” the governors wrote.

While a liability shield will not give cover to institutions that are negligent or reckless, and reasonably so, it would ensure that blatantly frivolous or unfounded lawsuits are not allowed to go forward.

For the average entrepreneur or school administrator, that would help alleviate some of the worries that are keeping many of these instructions closed or severely restricted.

No one wants customers or workers catching the virus in these environments, but creating 100 percent COVID-free zones would be next to impossible, a fact many scientists are ready to acknowledge. That’s why state governors, lawmakers and business leaders want to ensure that our states can open back up, but be cognizant of the risk.

There is still plenty of uncertainty related to the transmission of the virus, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pointed out, and that is why a liability shield — at least for those who follow health and safety recommendations — makes sense. Businesses and schools that willfully endanger citizens through negligence though, should rightfully be held liable.

This is the idea currently being debated in the nation’s capital, as Senate Republicans have stated they want a liability shield to avoid a lawsuit contagion.

Unfortunately, the idea is likely to be mired in a toxic partisan death spiral. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York decries such a plan as “legal immunity for big corporations” and reporting on the topic has resembled such.

But these protections would most benefit small businesses and schools that follow health recommendations and still find themselves the subject of lawsuits.

It is no secret that many attorneys see a potential payday in the wake of the pandemic. There are already hundreds of law firms pitching “coronavirus lawyers” and many have reassigned entire teams and departments to focus on providing legal advice and counsel for COVID-19 cases.

And much like in consumer fraud cases before the pandemic, a favorite tool of coronavirus tort lawyers will be large class-action lawsuits that seek huge payouts. These are the cases that usually end up lining the pockets of legal firms instead of legitimately harmed plaintiffs, as a recent Jones Day report finds. And that does not even speak to whether or not these cases have merit or not.

In debating the next level of pandemic relief for Americans, including a liability shield would be a great measure of confidence for responsible and cautious businesses and institutions in our country.

Whether it is the local community college or bakery, we must all recognize that assigning blame for virus contraction will be a frequent topic of concern. But those accusations must be founded, and be the result of outright harmful and negligent behavior, not just because students are back in class or customers are once again buying cakes.

A liability shield for the responsible citizens of our country is not only a good idea but necessary.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

GOP bill would deter frivolous COVID lawsuits

As customers slowly trickle back into stores and workers punch back in at reopened businesses, one thought dominates all our minds: caution.

Protective plastic shields and screens, face masks and gloves are a new reality, and it is a small price to pay for coming out of state-mandated lockdowns. But months into the all-encompassing coronavirus pandemic, there is another cost many entrepreneurs and administrators fear: future legal bills.

While voluntary precautions will be plentiful in every situation where a customer, student or worker is getting back out in the world, the nature of the virus means it is almost certain that someone, somewhere, will catch the virus. That means huge potential legal ramifications if a person wants to hold an institution or business liable.

A demonstrable lawsuit epidemic already exists. Between March and May of this year, more than 2,400 COVID-related lawsuits have been filed in federal and state courts. These cases are likely to blow up the legal system as we know it, elevating accusations of blame, clogging every level of our courts and keeping judges and lawyers busy for some time.

That is why the idea of a liability shield for schools, businesses and organizations has taken up steam. In a recent letter to congressional leaders, 21 governors, all Republicans, called on both houses of Congress to include liability protections in the next round of coronavirus relief.

“To accelerate reopening our economies as quickly and as safely as possible, we must allow citizens to get back to their livelihoods and make a living for their families without the threat of frivolous lawsuits,” the governors wrote.

While a liability shield will not give cover to institutions that are negligent or reckless, and reasonably so, it would ensure that blatantly frivolous or unfounded lawsuits are not allowed to go forward. For the average entrepreneur or school administrator, this would help alleviate some of the worries that are keeping many institutions and businesses closed or severely restricted.

No one wants customers or workers catching the virus in these environments, but creating 100 percent COVID-free zones would be next to impossible, a fact many scientists are ready to acknowledge. That’s why state governors, lawmakers and business leaders want to ensure that our states can open back up, yet be cognizant of the risk.

There is still plenty of uncertainty related to transmission of the virus, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pointed out, and that is why a liability shield — at least for those who follow health and safety recommendations — makes sense. Businesses and schools that willfully endanger citizens through negligence, though, should rightfully be held liable. This is the idea currently being debated in the nation’s capital, as Senate Republicans have stated they want a liability shield to avoid a lawsuit contagion.

Unfortunately, the idea is likely to be mired in a toxic partisan death spiral. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York decries such a plan as “legal immunity for big corporations” and national reporting on the topic has suggested as much.

But these protections would most benefit small businesses and schools that follow health recommendations and still find themselves the subject of lawsuits. It’s no secret that many attorneys see a potential payday in the wake of the pandemic. Already hundreds of law firms are pitching “coronavirus lawyers.”

And much as in consumer fraud cases before the pandemic, a favorite tool of coronavirus tort lawyers will be large class-action lawsuits that seek huge payouts. These are the cases that usually end up lining the pockets of legal firms instead of legitimately harmed plaintiffs, as a recent Jones Day law firm report finds. And that does not even speak to whether these cases have merit or not.

Whether it’s the local community college or bakery, we must all recognize that assigning blame for virus contraction will be a frequent topic of concern. But those accusations must be founded, and be the result of outright harmful and negligent behavior, not just because students are back in class or customers are once again buying cakes. A liability shield for the responsible citizens of our country is not only a good idea but necessary.

Yaël Ossowski is deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center. This article was published in the Waco Tribune-Herald.

RESPONSIBLE BUSINESSES AND SCHOOLS NEED COVID-19 LIABILITY SHIELDS

A Liability Shield For Small Businesses And Schools

Part of this proposal is a liability shield for small businesses and schools, to protect them from unreasonable lawsuits related to COVID-19.

Consumer Choice Center Deputy Director Yaël Ossowski responded: “The nature of the virus means it is almost certain that someone, somewhere, will catch the virus. That means huge potential legal ramifications if a person wants to hold an institution or business liable,” he wrote in the Detroit Times.

“There is already a demonstrable lawsuit epidemic. These cases are likely to blow up our legal system as we know it, elevating accusations of blame and clogging every level of our courts that will keep judges and lawyers busy for some time.

“That’s why responsible businesses and schools that follow federal recommendations on health and safety should not be subject to outrageous lawsuits that bring our society to a halt,” said Ossowski. “Only legitimate lawsuits, based on some measure of negligence or recklessness, should be heard in our nation’s courts.”

“For the average entrepreneur or school administrator, a liability shield would help alleviate some of the worries that are keeping many of these institutions closed or severely restricted,” he added.

“Stopping the coming wave of unfounded and frivolous lawsuits will be important if we want to actually identify citizens and consumers who have been harmed by institutions that have not taken the right precautions. That’s why a liability shield is necessary for getting our country back on the right track,” concluded Ossowski.

Learn more about Consumer Choice Center’s #LegalReform campaign here

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Responsible businesses need COVID-19 liability shields

As customers slowly trickle back into stores and workers punch back in at reopened businesses, there’s one thought on all our minds: caution.

Protective plastic shields and screens, face masks and gloves are a new reality, and it is a small price to pay for coming out of state-mandated lockdowns.

But months into the all-encompassing coronavirus pandemic, there is another cost many entrepreneurs and administrators fear: future legal bills. 

While voluntary precautions will be plentiful in every situation where a customer, student or worker is getting back out in the world, the nature of the virus means it is almost certain that someone, somewhere, will catch the virus. That means huge potential legal ramifications if a person wants to hold an institution or business liable.

In this April 15, 2020, file photo, two people walk past a closed sign at a retail store in Chicago.Nam Y. Huh, AP

There is already a demonstrable lawsuit epidemic. Between March and May of this year, more than 2,400 COVID-related lawsuits have been filed in federal and state courts. These cases are likely to blow up our legal system as we know it, elevating accusations of blame and clogging every level of our courts that will keep judges and lawyers busy for some time.

That is why the idea of a liability shield for schools, businesses and organizations has taken up steam.

In a recent letter to congressional leaders, 21 governors, all Republicans, called on both houses of Congress to include liability protections in the next round of coronavirus relief.

“To accelerate reopening our economies as quickly and as safely as possible, we must allow citizens to get back to their livelihoods and make a living for their families without the threat of frivolous lawsuits,” the governors wrote.

While a liability shield will not give cover to institutions that are negligent or reckless, and reasonably so, it would ensure that blatantly frivolous or unfounded lawsuits are not allowed to go forward.

For the average entrepreneur or school administrator, that would help alleviate some of the worries that are keeping many of these institutions closed or severely restricted.

No one wants customers or workers catching the virus in these environments, but creating 100% COVID-free zones would be next to impossible, a fact many scientists are ready to acknowledge. That’s why state governors, lawmakers and business leaders want to ensure that our states can open back up, but be cognizant of the risk. 

There is still plenty of uncertainty related to the transmission of the virus, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pointed out, and that is why a liability shield — at least for those who follow health and safety recommendations — makes sense. Businesses and schools that willfully endanger citizens through negligence though, should rightfully be held liable.

This is the idea currently being debated in the nation’s capital, as Senate Republicans have stated they want a liability shield to avoid a lawsuit contagion.

Unfortunately, the idea is likely to be mired in a toxic partisan death spiral. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York decries such a plan as “legal immunity for big corporations” and reporting on the topic has resembled such. 

But these protections would most benefit small businesses and schools that follow health recommendations and still find themselves the subject of lawsuits. 

It is no secret that many attorneys see a potential payday in the wake of the pandemic. There are already many law firms pitching “coronavirus lawyers” and many have reassigned entire teams and departments to focus on providing legal advice and counsel for COVID-19 cases. 

And much like in consumer fraud cases before the pandemic, a favorite tool of coronavirus tort lawyers will be large class-action lawsuits that seek huge payouts. These are the cases that usually end up lining the pockets of legal firms instead of legitimately harmed plaintiffs, as a recent Jones Day report finds. And that does not even speak to whether or not these cases have merit or not.

In debating the next level of pandemic relief for Americans, including a liability shield would be a great measure of confidence for responsible and cautious businesses and institutions in our country. 

Whether it is the local community college or bakery, we must all recognize that assigning blame for virus contraction will be a frequent topic of concern. But those accusations must be founded, and be the result of outright harmful and negligent behavior, not just because students are back in class or customers are once again buying cakes.

A liability shield for the responsible citizens of our country is not only a good idea but necessary.

Originally published in the Detroit Times here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

The WTO is Missing In Action on COVID

According to the World Trade Organisation (WTO)’s latest report to the United Nationès High-level Political Forum (HLPF), global trade will fall by between 13% and 32% in 2020 as a consequence of the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is expected that the decline will exceed the collapse brought on by the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, and nearly all regions will suffer double-digit declines in trade volumes in 2020.

The prediction is grim but not surprising. The world was simply not prepared for the pandemic, and, while a lot can be said about whether opting for lockdowns was a reasonable decision or not, what matters more now is the logic behind rushed economic policies. International trade implies interdependence and trust, and, therefore, unilateral withdrawal from a trading relationship is damaging and costly.

More specifically, this has to do with export restrictions on medical supplies and food. In the midst of the pandemic, 72 WTO members and eight non-WTO member countries banned or limited the export of face masks, protective gear, gloves and other goods. In a similar fashion, 15 countries globally made it harder or impossible to export food.

In the said report, the WTO draws attention to the chaotic nature of those trade regulations and lack of international cooperation and coordination. Most countries didn’t notify the WTO of their intentions to restrict trade, and this tells us two things. First, the WTO needs urgent reform to justify its institutional necessity. Second, regardless of how integrated and globalised the world might seem, true power remains with nation-states.

The good news is that the WTO is due to elect its new director-general, and some candidates seem to have a good grasp of what needs to be done to reshape the organisation. One of the frontrunners Amina Mohamed, a 58-year-old minister and former WTO chair, argues that “the [WTO] rulebook needs to be upgraded because of the concerns that are being expressed about the rules not being fit for purpose.”

The persistence of nation-statism is undeniable, and the pandemic has reinforced some of its key traits such as self-sufficiency. Being able to stand on two feet instead of waiting for others to give you a hand and, generally, being concerned only with oneself has become a protectionist mantra during the pandemic. Changing the prevalent narrative in favour of more cooperation and independence is one of the biggest challenges the new WTO DG will face.

However, it’s not all gloom and doom. The COVID-19 situation has revealed that a number of essential goods, such as ventilators or medical-style face masks had previously been burdened with tariffs. Removing many of these trade barriers has been helpful during the crisis, yet these measures are equally unnecessary outside the realms of the Novel Coronavirus. This is a positive shift and the one that needs to be endorsed by the WTO and all its members individually.

The WTO’s impact has been consistently declining over time, and the pandemic exposed its weakest sides: lack of coordination. The coronavirus crisis is not the first and definitely not the last challenge we face, but whatever happens, we should preserve free trade at all costs. The WTO is a much needed organisation, but it has to change.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

For more housing and less real estate havoc: rezone and dezone

Would help cities avoid a post-COVID commercial real estate disaster while also addressing the pre-COVID housing crunch

Un-zoning or rezoning office towers would be a way to make the overall real estate market more dynamic.

The economic havoc from COVID-19 has made the 2008 financial crisis look like a hiccup. Along with airlines and live entertainment, commercial real estate may end up being one of the hardest-hit sectors. Businesses we rely on in good times, both large and small, are facing foreclosure and bankruptcy. Retail locations, restaurants and commercial office space will become vacant and there is no guarantee demand will come all the way back to fill the void.

Part of our new reality is that millions of Canadians have seen the viability of working from home, or at least working from the office at a significantly reduced level. E-commerce giant Shopify announced last month it would become a remote-by-default workplace, with CEO Tobi Lutke going so far as to say that “office-centricity is over.” So long as productivity can be maintained, other corporate entities are likely to follow Shopify’s lead and forego the expensive overhead of downtown office space. That means a potentially significant increase in office vacancies, especially in places like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

If demand does wane, firms that own office towers in major Canadian cities will be left with empty space and hemorrhaging costs. What to do? Un-zoning or rezoning such spaces would be a way to make the overall real estate market more dynamic.

At the moment, it is very difficult and time-consuming to navigate the zoning restrictions that prevent firms from converting commercial spaces into residential units. Toronto, for example, has thousands of pages of zoning rules and regulations that limit how space can be used. Applying for a space to be rezoned is onerous and takes a minimum of nine months to be completed and reviewed. In order to apply to have the city rezone a property from commercial to residential, the applicant often needs to provide: an archeological assessment, a services and facility study, an environmental impact study, an energy strategy, a heritage impact statement, a natural heritage impact study, their planning rationale, their public consultation report and a transportation impact study — on top of their own formal plans. Un-zoning or rezoning swaths of commercial space without requiring this regulatory rigamarole could be a way for local governments to help industry survive the worst of the economic downfall.

Relaxing zoning for most of these commercial real estate spaces would also ease pressures on the supply side of the housing market. In cities like Vancouver and Toronto, the supply of housing has seldom kept up with demand, which is why residential vacancy rates in these major cities are usually at or below one per cent. In Toronto, the Toronto Real Estate Board has shown how demand has generally outpaced supply by tracking average home prices. The average price of a home in Toronto has tripled since 2005. Toronto’s inability to build new housing stock hurts renters more with each passing day. In January, it was forecast that rents in Toronto would rise seven per cent in 2020, well above the rate of inflation — though of course now all bets are off.

Rather than insist that commercial real estate sit empty, rezoning could: provide flexibility in terms of occupancy, increase the housing stock to better keep up with demand, and eventually put downward pressure on home and rental prices citywide — not to mention reduce the economic hit to the owners of such space.

What makes this solution even more attractive is that un-zoning and rezoning existing buildings would be tricky to oppose. New developments in major cities like Toronto undergo months, if not years, of review and community consultation. At every turn, NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) activists roadblock housing developments for such dubious reasons as a building’s height, shadow or footprint.

In the Long Branch neighbourhood of Toronto, NIMBY activists pushed to block the splitting of a residential lot because it would “threaten their community character and trees.” In the much-coveted Yonge and Lawrence area, the creation of eight semi-detached units was opposed because it threatened the community’s character by being 16 centimetres “too tall” and 13 centimetres “too wide,” according to the zoning bylaw. Obstructionism is so bad in Vancouver that the only way to build at a large scale (in the thousands of units) is on Indigenous land, beyond the reach of city council, which is too easily captured by NIMBYs.

Luckily for housing realists, i.e., those who understand that major Canadian cities need to increase supply, rezoning existing buildings is largely immune from these roadblocks. Buildings that have already been built are not a new imposition. All we have to do is let people move into them.

Giving rezoning and dezoning a serious look would help cities avoid a post-COVID commercial real estate disaster while also addressing the pre-COVID housing crunch. This is a win-win scenario — if only city councils have the courage and imagination to make it happen.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Outdated regulations are hampering a coronavirus cure

The federal government’s approval process for medicines, treatments, and vaccines is broken, and red tape at the Food and Drug Administration is to blame.

FDA bureaucrats are stonewalling the search for cures for COVID-19 and other illnesses by forcing drug companies to conduct expensive and misleading testing on dogs. The FDA has gone so far as to force this upon drug producers even when it is not necessary, when efficient alternatives are available, and it has punished companies for challenging this mandate.

One company had a drug (now a potential COVID-19 treatment) held up for years and lost tens of millions in stock value because it refused to conduct an unnecessary $750,000 test on dogs after it had already run extensive animal and human testing. The company has argued that “[t]he animal studies the FDA demands … have been considered routine in the pharmaceutical industry for decades, despite the growing body of evidence discrediting such studies’ scientific value.”

The FDA’s current dog-testing mandate for drug companies traces back to 1938, in the days when doctors regularly performed ice-pick lobotomies to treat mental illness and pregnancy tests were done by injecting women’s urine into frogs. Luckily, medicine has come a long way. But even now, although companies may choose to conduct limited animal testing at times, it’s widely acknowledged that animal testing of human drugs is often wasteful and unnecessary.

The National Institutes of Health, for example, writes that “petri dish and animal models often fail to provide good ways to mimic disease or predict how drugs will work in humans, resulting in much wasted time and money while patients wait for therapies.” The NIH, the FDA, and others estimate that over 90% of drugs that pass government-mandated animal tests fail in humans because they are ineffective or dangerous, costing companies billions of dollars and decades of lost time.

Recognizing this waste, in recent years the pharmaceutical industry has increased research & development spending while also decreasing animal testing by using cutting-edge technologies such as organs-on-chips and computer models that better mimic human drug responses.

The problem is that the FDA often won’t allow these new technologies to be used, even though it claims to support them and has the authority to do so. The FDA’s decade-old ”nonbinding” guidance document that includes dog tests also states, “You can use an alternative approach if the approach satisfies the requirements of the applicable statutes and regulations.”

Yet, as the Government Accountability Office and others have documented, the intransigent FDA has refused to allow companies to use these high-tech tools to fulfill regulatory requirements. Instead, the FDA treats its nonbinding, outdated guidance as a regulation and forces drug makers to pay for unscientific dog tests that field experts, doctors, and scientists deem misleading and wasteful.

The tests demanded by the FDA cost millions and entail force-feeding puppies experimental drugs every day for up to a year, providing no pain relief, and then killing and dissecting the dogs. Approximately one-third of all dog testing in the United States is done to fulfill useless and burdensome government regulations such as these.

These slow and misleading tests also cause unnecessary delays that drive up the cost of drug development and, in turn, medical care. Estimates are that each day a drug is kept off the market due to FDA bureaucracy costs companies between $1 million and $13 million in sales. The GAO has also reported about how safe and effective medical products have been kept from consumers because of FDA’s unnecessary animal testing demands and that “manufacturers may face backlash from animal rights groups and shareholders if animal testing is conducted.” The FDA’s dog-testing red tape is creating liability, not mitigating it.

Taxpayers who pay the FDA’s bills want reform, too. According to a May 2020 national poll, 67% of taxpayers — 73% of Republicans and 66% of Democrats — support ending the FDA’s dog-testing mandate.

In the fight against COVID-19, President Trump has called on the FDA to “slash red tape like nobody’s ever done before.”

The FDA’s burdensome dog testing, which is not required by law and could be lifted at any time, has allowed dangerous drugs to reach patients and prevented safe ones from coming to market. FDA red tape can’t be allowed to hold patients, industry, and puppies hostage any longer.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

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